I got a chance to see Zootopia with my family this past weekend. [No spoilers below, don’t worry.] This is a movie that I’ve been looking forward to since the first trailers. I am delighted and relieved to say that it lived up to expectations!

The public seems to agree, propelling the movie to Disney’s biggest Thursday box office opening, breaking Frozen’s record. The title song “Try Everything” hit #1 on Apple’s billboard.

What’s interesting to me is how deeply “furry” this movie is — not just that it literally features funny animals. One of the trailers had a line about Zootopia being a “city like you’ve never seen before” and I always had to add under my breath “…unless you’re a furry.” There’s so much there which echoes what we’ve seen in fandom creations.

Plus, c’mon, check out those sexy tiger dancers in the music video. Does that seem more “Disney animation” or “furry art pinup”? ;)

There are many elements in the world design that echo things well-established in furry fiction and art — of course you have differently sized doors. Yeah, you have different suburbs and cultural enclaves for some different zoological families. Transportation and climate control get tricky.

Two furry adaptations which I didn’t notice — I’ve only seen the movie once and will look for when I rewatch it — were whether there were any meat-based foods and whether chair backs had any special modifications. The movie intro clearly tried to set the food problem aside. The chairs looked standard… Have you ever tried to sit in a straight-backed chair with a tail? Ugh.

What was most resonant for me were the movie’s themes of seeing past prejudice and pursuing your dreams. These are like central beliefs of furry fandom. Species is a useful lens to approach a thorny topic like bigotry and race. I was still surprised to see it tackled so head-on in a Disney film. The scene where Nick felt the sheep’s wool was uncomfortable (yet it could safely go over the heads of kids) in a way I didn’t expect.

We saw prejudices exposed in so many of the characters and used in such an integral way to their arcs that it made for a powerful message. All while still keeping the film a comedy! But the Avenue Q song “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” would almost be at home in this movie.

Yet the film’s actual theme song, “Try Everything,” hewed to the other message about following your dreams and overcoming other people’s preconceptions. That sort of self-definition is both a theme in furry and a literal part of the fandom. We create our fursonas and art as a way to recreate ourselves, to show others glimpses of our self-image.

As a fandom, we are generally very accepting of those who are different or marginalized. We like to welcome everyone with hugs. There are exceptions and I don’t want to pretend that we’re perfect or without prejudice, yet I’m proud to see so many in the fandom deliberately trying to be open and inclusive.

Just yesterday I saw this article about VancouFur: Syrian refugee children make some furry friends at Canada convention

Some Syrian refugees — people who have been through so much and become a political football — were put up at the same hotel where a furry convention was happening. Furries and fursuiters made them welcome and gave out lots of hugs. How many people do you think have hugged refugee strangers? Maybe we can’t solve the world’s big problems but we try to help in our little way. That is something special.

There were also a few online articles about Disney reaching out to furry fans. Before those articles, I had received an email from the marketing group promoting the film and it seems legit. It’s not like Disney doesn’t know who furries are or that many of us are “rabid fans” of some of their films. I believe they are perfectly aware that Zootopia is a (more mainstream) take on the same thing we’ve all been collaboratively creating for years where you move beyond just cartoon characters and sight gags to imagining a practical and lived-in world for anthropomorphic people.

Furry fandom involves this sort of consensual fantasy where we see the world through our creative filters. This film felt like a larger view through the same filter. On reflection, I suspect that’s why the city immediately felt so “comfortable” to me. Furries are familiar with places that look like this.

In conclusion, I hope you enjoy Zootopia, at whatever level. It’s still a terrific and sharply-written comedy and I wouldn’t take that away from it. Also, in this writeup, I’ve made many generalized statements about furry which you should take with a grain of salt. I can’t “speak for the fandom” more than anyone else. This is just how I see things.

For me, at least, Zootopia feels like a place I’ve been living in for years. See you downtown!


FC 2016

Kit and I flew down to FC. The flight was an inauspicious start to the trip...


SF was stacked up due to weather. We actually took off at 11:15 or so. Didn't get to Trey's house (and thus to a bed) until around 2am. Since I had gotten up at 6am for work that morning it made for a long day and a grumpy rat.

But we did finally manage to get to FC, showing up Friday. Things improved from there, at least for me. Trey was feeling ill and unfortunately needed to rest at home a bit. Fortunately he was able to join us for the tail end of the con.

RC Mouse (and bonus background husky)

Midori (in her new colorful gator suit!) and Weichund. Cool folks and glad I got to see 'em.

We got to check out Reveille and the Swingin' Tails doing their jazz concert. (In case you're wondering about the menu, the con theme was "American Diner".)

I hadn't expected to get to hear a jazz concert but it was really great! Lot of fun and they really had some fun with those tunes.

More hanging around and seeing the fursuits around the hotel...

IMG_6905.jpg attending panels on fursuit construction and writing. That kinda sums up my con experience. :)

This was the props panel by Matrices (foreground), Alexis Rudd / Redstorm (middle), and Lance Ikegawa (rear). All folks I know, as it happens. I don't tend to do much with props for my suits so this was an interesting one. If you can see the ice cream cone lying there behind the orange popsicle ("paw-sicle"), I ended up purchasing that. :)

A wild Raver Saber appears! Such a pretty suit. :)

Speaking of pretty suits, got to hang with my friend Twig Mouse and his partner Weasely. They were nice enough to invite us up to the room for some cheese and chat. Rodential relaxation!

Around the con, people had stepped up to provide services for the attendees.
Here is our fursuit greeter in requisite blue vest showing all the energy and enthusiasm of a genuine WalMart greeter. (Brilliant performance idea.)

Wolever, a regular appearance in the evening hours, helped ensure everyone got their dose of sugar.

Sugar-glazed free-for-all!

I also met a fellow I hadn't seen before. He was nice but a little hungry... Fortunately this badger carried snacks with him. :)

Badger badger badger... Snake!
It's a snake! Dia (aka Bree) had some of her reptilian pets along so Kit got a chance for some python petting.

So that's a quick visual recap of the con. Hope everyone else who went had a good time too. Squeaks!
NaNo Caffeine

NaNoWriMo 2015 - Won!

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I started my next novel manuscript during this past month. I used the momentum of NaNoWriMo to get things jumpstarted. I did not expect to reach the 50K goal! I was writing during my normal times (commutes) plus a bit on weekends. I was helped, oddly enough, by a pre-Thanksgiving power outage where I nursed along my laptop battery (because typing doesn't use much energy compared to, say, YouTube videos). I even "finished" a day early.

So this is a strong start... Now I need to do the next ~35K and then a couple of thorough edit passes... polishing... Well, I'm started, anyway. :)

If you're curious about that truncated story teaser:
After his father has disappeared in the wild desert and been declared dead, Marden assumes the traditional family role of executioner to the court. This includes acting as bounty hunter for those sentenced, tracking them between the distant communities in the dry lands. The high magistrate hands down his first assignment: capture and return his childhood friend and sweetheart, Alia, who has been condemned for practicing forbidden magic.

Summer Family Vacation

This past week we did our semi-regular summer trip. We all piled into the minivan (the Family Truckster, if you please) and drove down to Santa Clara, CA with a stop in Portland, OR on the way back up.

On the trip down we also stopped at Ape Cave, a lava tube near Mt St Helens.

Saw some local wildlife in the park:

Then went into the cave itself. Here's the entrance:

We traversed the lower part of the lava tube (easier hiking, with a smoother mud flow floor). The kids had their own flashlights:

Lottie and Kit made it most of the way down the one mile passage. Tim and I pushed along to the end... And I mean the very end, where you have to belly crawl to reach one final burrow bubble deep within the earth.

California took our cherries! I mean they seized our produce. At the border inspection station. The grapes, however, were fine and dandy. It depends on what crops are threatened that season, evidently.

Then we continued south for another day to reach the Bay Area and beloved Uncle Brian's house (and even-more-beloved Uncle Brian's swimming pool). Here's a lunch stop at the ever-popular Black Bear Diner:

While in the Bay Area, we went to the Winchester Mystery House!

This place has always fascinated me. It was Timothy's first visit and he was entirely entertained by it, too. It also happened to be Brian's first daytime visit as he'd previously only done their flashlight tour.

I've been there more than a half dozen times but always enjoy seeing it. Here are the back gardens:

Here's a view looking out through the daisy windows at the front gardens:

And finally, the bell tower:

While in the Bay Area I made a stop at Bob's Foam Factory over in Fremont. The guys there still remember me! Yes, I do stop on family vacations to buy fursuit materials and there's nothing wrong with that. :P

On the way up, we stopped outside Sacramento to meet up with my cousins. My paternal grandparents passed away, with grandma dying earlier this year. My grandpa's woodworking was among the items being distributed to family. I received grandma's recipe box (with recipe cards!), a shelf for Lottie's room, and this lovely bowl he made:

After a pleasant visit, we resumed heading northwards. Stopped in Yreka at a classic no-frills motor lodge. Fine if rather unremarkable. But quite accommodating about a 1:15am arrival.

Visited with family in Portland. Enjoyed some blueberries from my father-in-law's garden:

And got a chance to cook at my mom's house. (Chicken limonatta, pasta, and green beans with peppers, in case you're wondering.)

Very early Monday morning, Kit drove me over to the Max light rail. I was heading back early while Kit and kids stayed for a few extra days of family visiting. (I was going back to work. Ah well.)

From there I got to the Portland train station:

A beautiful old building with marble interior and high windows:

Hopped on Amtrak Cascades:

And enjoyed a pleasant ride through Washington:


Then I walked to work -- taking the trolley there and then ferry boat home, just to maximize the number of different mass transit options. :)

A very nice summer trip!
Dr.F: Buh?

Bipedal Beavers on the Moon!

Did ya hear about the bipedal beavers living on the moon?

It was front page news in the New York Sun.... back in 1835!

The Great Moon Hoax

The "bipedal beavers" are shown off to the right in this original illustration, though they're tailless and look rather like bears. (Furry art has come a long way?)
Sy Liebergot

New Horizons Arriving at Pluto!

After many years of waiting (and many journal updates here), the New Horizons spacecraft is finally arriving at the Plutonian system!

Pluto Flyby Coverage

They are already getting some fantastic new images showing the surface of the mysterious (dwarf) planet. New Horizons will have closest approach tomorrow, 7/14, and be beaming back heavy amounts of data starting tomorrow afternoon. So look for great images to show up in the news.

And it will be imaging other bodies as well during the pass. It'll particularly get good studies of Charon and Nix. Styx, Hydra, and Kerberos are small enough that images will only see them as 10-50 pixels across.

New Horizons is expected to make a closest approach of 12,500 km to Pluto as it barrels through. Note the scale of the system diagram below -- it will fly within Charon's orbit. (The idea being the debris in the accretion disc should be cleared in that band, with Charon acting like a shepherd moon, thus minimizing chances of a crippling collision.)

Kerberos and Styx are recently-discovered moons, in 2011 and 2012 (respectively). Think about it: We've discovered TWO new moons of Pluto since we launched this craft! That's how little we know about the oddball Plutonian group out on the edge of our solar system. Exciting exploration!

SpaceX Launch Failure

SpaceX unmanned resupply rocket lost

SpaceX had been bucking the trend with 18 successful missions. This morning, a launch of their Falcon9 on an International Space Station resupply run disintegrated shortly before first stage shutdown.

Though it's been labeled "explosion" it's not clear to me from the footage whether that's the right description. The first stage engines continue to burn smoothly through most of the event. It appears there is some rupture or tear in the upper stage and the rocket got basically torn apart by aerodynamic forces. Less "burst", more "shred."

No details on causes released as of yet. SpaceX is looking at the data. Again, this was an unmanned vehicle so no lives were at stake. Though it is the second ISS resupply mission to have failed, making it important that the next reach the station.

In other space news, New Horizons is about to make its pass around Pluto! 17 more days.
Sy Liebergot

New Horizons Approaches Pluto

Though it's fast approaching, it's still about 30 million miles away. But the team is starting to get some good images of the enigmatic ex-planet.

Read more in this article.

The close flyby will occur July 14th. Only one month to go! We've been waiting since 2006 for the spacecraft to make this long journey. The good news is that it seems to be in perfect health.
Nicodemus: Cheddar

A State-ly Word Puzzle

...because every now and then I get inspired to make a word puzzle. Enjoy! LMK what you think. Assume the comment section contains answers/spoilers.

“A Change of State”
Combine a two-letter state postal abbreviation with a word to form a different word.

In the blue hen state, illumination becomes a joy.
DE + light = delight

1. In the island state, a bell’s sound means companies are gaining employees.
2. In the show-me state, this flower by any other name would be sad.
3. In the commonwealth, thieves’ jargon sounds like an empty room.
4. In the palmetto state, this colony insect is tiny or meager.
5. In the heart of Dixie, a factual basic statement or saying is seen as selfless concern for others.
6. In the Great Lakes state, carmine becomes stuck in mud.
7. In the beaver state, this leafy vegetable grows into a maintained grove of trees.
8. In the Liberty Bell state, a delicate openwork fabric becomes a home fit for a king.
9. In the ocean state, part of your torso is the wealthiest.
10. When you’ve finished first, then you go to the bluegrass state, things end up kind of off-balance or broken.

“Interstate Trip"
Combine two two-letter state abbreviations to form a four-letter word.

11. Driving from the highest state to the bayou state earns you a Coke.
12. Driving from the peach state to the pine tree state makes for an entertaining diversion or event.
13. Driving from the bay state to the empire state yields lots and lots.
14. Driving from the keystone state to the land of Lincoln gives you a bucket.
15. Driving from the evergreen state to the cornhusker state causes one to diminish.
Sy Liebergot

SpaceX Launch Tomorrow

Tomorrow SpaceX will do another satellite launch. This will be their second attempt to land the first stage booster -- something no one has done and which would open the way to reusable boosters to cut the cost of launches.

The launch window is tomorrow, 6:10 Eastern / 3:10 Pacific.

UPDATE: Launch was scrubbed on Sunday due to an issue with an avionics transponder. They're going to set up for tomorrow but we'll see. If it's hardware though it's unlikely to go.

They land on barges around 250 miles out to sea. They're autonomous vehicles that use multi-directional engines to hold their position.

In a tribute to the recently-deceased sci-fi author Iain M. Banks, Elon Musk decided to name the barges after spaceships in his Culture series of novels. Those ships tended to have somewhat quirky names, chosen by the AI minds that ran them. The two SpaceX ships are now "Just Read the Instructions" (east coast) and "Of Course I Still Love You" (west coast).

By a strange coincidence, just this past week I finished listening to "Use of Weapons," the third book in the Culture series on Audible. Pretty good narrator. Strange book, as they are in that series. Of the ones I've read/heard, "Player of Games" is my favorite. It'd be among my all-time top novel picks.

Last time they tried this, SpaceX got close. They reached the ship but the booster crashed onto the ship's deck as it ran out of maneuvering fuel. (Elon commented that they'd added 50% more maneuvering hydraulics, so if it crashes "At least it should explode for a different reason."

Good luck tomorrow, SpaceX!